A close look at four young "troubled" kids in school.
When children enter the public school system, they are expected to sit still for long periods of time, listen, and do as they are told. In this intriguing, in-depth look at four young children, educator Shalaby examines the damage that may be done to kids who must conform. "Our schools are designed to prepare children to take their assumed place in the social order rather than to question and challenge that order," writes the author, who uses pseudonyms for her subjects. "Even our supposedly 'best' schools—maybe especially these most well-resourced, largely white schools—fail to give young people a chance to teach and learn the meaning, the responsibilities, and the demands of freedom." Despite the disciplinary actions of their teachers, the four children the author followed in school, and later in their homes, continue to express their individuality. Zora hides a handful of straws at lunch one day so she can build a “super straw.” Lucas is quickly bored during a read-aloud session and interrupts the class by going to get his own book to read. Sean engages in silly antics to garner a laugh or affirmation when the class work is boring. Marcus is full of energy and hidden stress, which pops out at inconvenient times. These children are not alone; there are numerous others who find it difficult to adapt to and obey the rigid structure of a typical school day. Shalaby ponders what's being lost when these highly inquisitive, energetic, think-outside-the-box kids are forced, through constant discipline, ridicule, and/or medications, to suppress their individuality. It's an important question, which teachers and parents should be asking when they notice a child expressing him- or herself in ways that aren’t necessarily “normal.”
A provocative study questions the value and/or harm of conformity in a school setting.